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Yuh Get Fat!

Written by: Vanessa Pillay

"Yuh get fat" or "yuh put on so much weight" are typical phrases heard in Indo-Caribbean households. As a 25-year-old, first-generation Guyanese-Canadian who was formerly obese, these remarks weighed heavily on my mental health. 

On March 28th, I set a realistic goal to lose 25 lbs before my 25th birthday, allowing myself five months to achieve it. I committed to walking on the treadmill daily for one hour, striving to reach 10,000 steps each day. However, my biggest challenge was my nutrition. Accustomed to fast food and Guyanese cuisine, cutting back on cultural dishes evoked feelings of guilt. Though these foods can be enjoyed in moderation, it was difficult to acknowledge their less-than-ideal health implications. Despite acquiring new recipes, nothing compared to the comfort of a hot plate of Chicken Curry and Dhal Puri. I learned to enjoy other healthy and nutritious foods while still enjoying Guyanese cuisine occasionally. 

By my 25th birthday, I had shed over 30 pounds and decided to gift myself a gym membership shortly after. Despite the initial intimidation and lack of enjoyable staff interactions, I persevered. Joining the gym allowed me to shed an additional 15 pounds. However, even after losing a total of 45 pounds, I still encountered criticism of being labelled as "too skinny”. I was then told to quit the gym because I didn't need it anymore, but going serves a higher purpose than just being fit or skinny. I want to be stronger and maintain an active lifestyle. I've had days where I'd cry about how much I hated how my body looked. Being told that I was “too fat” to “too skinny” made me feel discouraged. What was the right in-between? It made me question why the Indo-Carribean culture was so toxic and competitive. 

Focusing on my physical health brought unexpected mental health issues, including body dysmorphia, a popular disorder thrown around in the gym community. It's where you see a completely different version of yourself compared to how the world sees you. In my eyes, I saw my old self: 45 pounds heavier with no progress made. This perception led to an unhealthy relationship with food, which essentially led to starving myself. Despite knowing the importance of eating and protein intake, the fear of overeating scared me because I was afraid of gaining weight again. Comments made about my body only worsened the situation. I wanted to be part of something new, where others could uplift me instead of dragging me down. 

Discovering Unity, a Guyanese-owned gym, proved to be a transformative experience. Despite initial trepidation, the warm welcome and focus on holistic health—both physical and mental—made me feel part of a family. The vibrant atmosphere, complete with Soca, Reggae, and Dancehall, fostered a familial environment conducive to self-expression and growth. I remember opening up to Coach Rambo about my body dysmorphia and unhealthy relationship with food. He told me to think of my body like a car: you need fuel to drive and get around. He reminded me to remember my “why” — why am I at the gym? Why did I choose this lifestyle? The only answer was for my health. If I'm not eating, I'm not giving it my all at the gym, and I will never get the results I'm seeking. 

I would later start slowly incorporating more food and protein into my diet. I was seeing a difference in my strength and endurance at the gym. I was educating myself on the value of

nutrition and becoming less scared of food. I started lifting heavier weights and pushing myself more because the only person that could help me was myself. I took the initiative to lose weight, eat healthily, and get myself to the gym. I stopped paying attention to the little things that didn't matter like the number on the scale, my calorie intake, and what others had to say about me. The goal was no longer to be skinnier: it was to be stronger. 

Throughout my journey, I encountered numerous challenges and contemplated giving up. However, my unwavering determination prevailed, leading to natural, sustainable weight loss. I connected with inspiring individuals who epitomized perseverance and embraced health and fitness as a lifestyle. Presently, I serve as an inspiration within the Indo-Caribbean community, advocating for self-discipline, self-acceptance, and, above all, self-love. I always get asked, “How do you stay consistent?” Just like anything you want in life. If you really want it, you have to work for it. We don't have to work out or be healthy, we get to work out and be healthy. Whether "yuh get fat" or "yuh too magga", be the healthiest and happiest version of you.

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